America Podcast: Anthony Ruff on Traditionis Custodes

In Gloria Purvis’s American magazine podcast this week is a conversation with Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB: “Catholics were misled about the traditional Latin Mass – and their pain is real.”

Hats off to their Jesuits and lay collaborators at America for their publications and broadcasts!



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23 responses to “America Podcast: Anthony Ruff on Traditionis Custodes”

  1. Lee Fratantuono Avatar
    Lee Fratantuono

    “Catholics were misled about the traditional Latin Mass…”

    Historians may some day look back on this period as an important one in the realm not of liturgy but of papal authority.

    If John Paul and Benedict can “mislead”, so too can Francis.

    Nor, I think, will it be sufficient simply to argue that Francis is following Paul, and Paul was right and John Paul and Benedict misguided if not wrong.

    If Paul had the right to interpret Vatican II, so too did all his successors, without exception.

    Those of more progressive tendencies might do well to consider that while the traditionalist liturgical genie may well be out of the bottle, the problem of papal authority and its limits is more pressing than ever, and some future pontificate might well be as unpalatable to them as was that of Benedict.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB


      I think this is correct. Popes have a lot of power, and it is possible that a future pope will go against Vatican II and Pope Francis. I make no predictions about the future. For the good of the Church, though, I hope that the deep values of Vatican II are “irreversible” and that the entire Catholic Church eventually unites around them.

      Fr. Anthony

  2. Alex Sheffield Avatar
    Alex Sheffield

    Interesting talk. Could you provide any citations from conciliar and post conciliar magisterial documents which state that the 1962 missal does not express the nature of the true church or that it has an ecclesiology and sacramental theology that is incompatible with the one expressed in the 1970 missal?

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      Thank you. Could you provide any citations from conciliar and post conciliar magisterial documents before Summorum Pontificum which state that the 1962 missal does express the nature of the true church or that it has an ecclesiology and sacramental theology that is compatible with the one expressed in the 1970 missal?

      1. Lee Fratantuono Avatar
        Lee Fratantuono

        I think this is a perilous theological road to travel.

        Part of the peril is something implicit and sometimes explicit in the post-conciliar books: the concept of “today.”

        Liturgia Horarum, for example, is prefaced by the declaration that the goal of the book is to promote more perfect and better prayer “hodiernis temporibus.”

        Leaving aside what I think is also a perilous (and paradoxical) concept of what it means for prayer to be “perfectius,” I think it is reasonable to ask when the “hodiernis temporibus” of 1971 are no longer “hodiernis.” To imagine that the needs of 2021 are those of 1971 is difficult to countenance…

      2. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB


        Yes and no.

        If one starts with a fundamental acceptance of Vatican II, it becomes rather easy to make the distinctions. The deep values stated at Vatican II, in all the postconciliar liturgical documents, and embodied in the 1970 missal are not simply limited to the 1960s or 1970s in some time-bound way, but are now constitutive of Roman Catholicism. I think, for example, of the entire congregation as liturgical agent, not simply the priest; that the people *do* the rite and are not simply inspired and moved (however deeply) by the action of the priest; that there are multiple lay ministries; that the Eucharistic Prayer is proclaimed aloud and experienced as Christ acting in the entire congregation; that the Communion Rite is a communal meal and not simply an act of personal devotion; and so forth.

        The deep values will remain for generations (and centuries) to come. It is in this sense that the Pope can say that the liturgical reform is “irreversible.” There is no going back to 1962.

        But societies and cultures change. Styles of music will be different from the 1970s. Tastes in vestments will change and evolve. Maybe more Eucharistic Prayers will be developed, maybe one or the other will fall out of use. The lectionary could be adjusted – maybe a four-year lectionary with a year for John, or maybe a two-year lectionary for some reason. Maybe the location of the Sign of Peace will change. I’m not advocating for any of these changes here. I’m trying to show how the needs of the 1970s will not be the needs of succeeding generations in all aspects, even as the deep values articulated back then will endure.

        But as I say, my viewpoint depends entirely on acceptance of Vatican II and 1970. Absent that, my argument has no traction.

      3. Alex Sheffield Avatar
        Alex Sheffield

        I don’t see why Summorum Pontificum doesn’t count, but I would direct you to Paul VI’s Wednesday Audiences concerning the liturgical reform in November 1969. He is clear that the two missals do not contradict one another and have “the same theological and spiritual content.”
        Can you show me where he ever stated that the missals contradict one another?

      4. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        Paul VI says this, which is certainly correct about ‘fundamental outline’ and ‘greater richness’:
        “the fundamental outline of the Mass is still the traditional one, not only theologically but also spiritually. Indeed, if the rite is carried out as it ought to be, the spiritual aspect will be found to have greater richness.”
        The entire speech gives the context:


      5. Alex Sheffield Avatar
        Alex Sheffield

        Yes, that’s the full quote. On Nov. 19 he also stated that “Nothing has been changed of the substance of our traditional Mass.”

        Also, oct 29 1964 speech to concilium:

        The proper implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy requires of you that the “new” and the “old” be brought together in a bond that is both suitable and beautiful. What must be avoided at all costs in this matter is that eagerness for the “new” exceed due measure, resulting in insufficient regard for, or entirely disregarding, the patrimony of the liturgy handed on. Such a defective course of action should not be called renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, but an overturning of it. The liturgy, in fact, displays a similarity to a hardy tree, the beauty of which shows a continual renewal of leaves, but whose fruitfulness of life bears witness to the long existence of the trunk, which acts through its deep and stable roots. In liturgical matters, therefore, no real opposition should occur between the present age and previous ages; but all should be done so that, whatever be the innovation, it be made to cohere and to concord with the sound tradition that precedes it, and so that from existing forms new forms grow, as through spontaneously blossoming from it.”

        Are you going to answer my question?

      6. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB


        All the badgering and trolling in the world will not get me to say that the pre-Vatican II Mass is really great and ought to be permitted and affirmed and encouraged. I don’t believe that, as you well know.

        I think you know well what my response is to your type of question. Paul VI said what you quoted; he also prohibited the Tridentine Mass. Why? It’s rather easy to develop a response if one starts from a basic acceptance of Vatican II and the 1970 Missal: the substance of what Eucharist is was never lost in the Church and was to be found in the Tridentine rite – but hidden, obscured, distorted, and so forth. Vatican II and the 1970 Missal brought that substance into greater clarity, and brought out the original characteristics of the Roman rite (community as agent, active participation, etc.) which were hard to perceive in the old rite.

        But you know all this. Please stop trying to get me to say that Paul VI was a bad guy who contradicted himself, or to try to catch me out in a clever argument that will cause me to discard all my convictions. It’s not going to happen.


      7. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        While P6 may not have said it, the preconciliar missal by definition fails to implement the requirements of a conciliar mandate for its renewal that postdates it – that’s a contradiction of a kind. It’s an asymmetrical situation because the world only spins forward.

      8. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
        Fr. Anthony Forte

        Fr. Anthony,

        You said: “If one starts with a fundamental acceptance of Vatican II, it becomes rather easy to make the distinctions.”

        But here is the rub. What is the fundamental meaning of Vatican II? As is well known, there are two schools of thought: a hermeneutic of rupture and a hermeneutic of reform in continuity. Unfortunately, for many “Vatican II” has become a shorthand for “hermeneutic of rupture. But if Vatican II, as has been stated, is to be understood to go beyond the ipsa verba of the Council and include the teachings the popes that followed, they surely this must include the Christmas address to the Curia by Pope Benedict in 2005 in which he stated that the proper way to understand the Council was through a hermeneutic of reform in continuity, reading in through the tradition of the Church that came before the Council. With this understanding there is nothing revolutionary in the Council nor a need to break with a traditional understanding of the liturgy.

      9. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        I’m not sure the distinction between “hermeneutic of rupture” and “hermeneutic of reform in continuity” is a helpful one that has advanced the discussion constructively. I grant that it was used once by a pope in a rather minor address to the Roman curia 15 years ago.


      10. Fr. Anthony Forte Avatar
        Fr. Anthony Forte

        Fr. Anthony,

        You said: “It’s rather easy to develop a response if one starts from a basic acceptance of Vatican II and the 1970 Missal.”

        But the sad truth is that the 1970 Missal has no more been accepted by the progressive liturgical establishment than it has by those who wish a return the the pre-Vatican II Mass. In his accompanying letter to the bishops Pope Francis stated: “Whoever wishes to celebrate with devotion according to earlier forms of the liturgy can find in the reformed Roman Missal according to Vatican Council II all the elements of the Roman Rite, in particular the Roman Canon which constitutes one of its more distinctive elements.” While this has been true in theory, in practice such a form of the new Mass has been suppressed as much, if not more, as the old Mass itself.

        If the goal is to have everyone accept the reformed 1970 Missal then let everyone accept in and in all of its parts. Thus there should be, along with the present more radical form, a routine celebration of the reformed rite in a completely traditional form, one stripped of all the options that are not actually mandated by the 1970 Missal. Thus:
        1) Mass in Latin with the readings in the vernacular,
        2) celebration ad orientem for the Eucharistic Prayer,
        3) the habitual use of the Roman Canon,
        4) Gregorian chant,
        5) Communion on the tongue while kneeling,
        6) no extraordinary ministers of Communion,
        7) male-only ministers, and
        8) a clear division of the sanctuary and nave by a railing.

        A Mass celebrated in this manner is just as valid an option of the 1970 Missal as the present status quo. Anyone who would object to such a Mass being celebrated routinely in the parishes is also rejecting the 1970 Missal and the reforms of Vatican II.

      11. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        To your last paragraph: There are theological reasons why most of those who accept the 1970 Missal would object to some of your preferred practice becoming routine. There is a reason why postconciliar legislation, universal and national, allows the things you object to. Church law allows a celebration with the 1970 Missal doing the things you say – which doesn’t make them good, or better, than the practices which have arisen, and been permitted by the authorities, for good reasons.

        We need not debate the individual points – that has been done elsewhere at great length already.


  3. Lee Fratantuono Avatar
    Lee Fratantuono

    It is interesting that one element that few if any are noting is that TC also spends time calling for an end to abuses in the celebration of Pauline liturgies.

    If bishops use TC to curtail 1962 liturgies while ignoring significant Pauline liturgy abuses that in a pandemic age are for all to see online, it will raise just suspicion about just what exactly the point here really is.

    1. Father Jack Feehily Avatar
      Father Jack Feehily

      What some regard as abuses the initiatives taken by some priests in celebrating the Order of Mass, others regard these as expressions and actions which flow from the culture in which we live. Some traditionalists are horrified to think of the priest beginning Mass with a personal greeting like “good morning” rather than the stated texts. But what if the personal greeting is from the priest standing where the procession begins. The rubrical greeting follows the entrance song as usual. This is hardly an abuse. Or a priest may say “Pray brothers and sisters that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God our almighty Father.” The substance of the prayer remains the same. Every English speaking person knows that “my and yours equals ours”. Or does someone think that the priest’s offering of the Mass needs to be carefully distinguished from the manner in which the faithful offer it? Anyone know of any faithful in ordinary parish liturgies who don’t know the difference between the ordained and the baptized? One could argue canonically that such minor changes are not warranted but they are certainly not “abuses”.

      1. B Kalafut Avatar
        B Kalafut

        In the pews it is difficult to distinguish a priest who says “brothers and sisters” instead of “bretheren” as a way of tacitly accusing everyone who says it the normal way of sexism from one who says it that way because that’s how his memory recalls it. And it’s likewise difficult to distinguish one saying “ours” out of age-old habit from one saying “ours” as a protest against the no-longer-new translation from one saying “ours” because of some errant theological position. We in the nave have been exposed to all of the above over the years. From some priests it’s innocent slips of the tongue but from others it’s an abuse: the priest changing the words of the Mass to fit some personal agenda. Reverts are especially sensitive to it. “Not this stuff again!”

      2. Lee Fratantuono Avatar
        Lee Fratantuono

        Certainly there are options in the Pauline books that permit a wide range of practices.

        But the pandemic has revealed the state of liturgy to a wider audience than ever via the internet. Abuses in the Pauline liturgy are not mere figments of traditionalist imaginations. TC has occasioned lots of discussion of 1962, and little if any mention of Francis’ concern about abuses in celebrations of 1970.

      3. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        I think I’ve mentioned this here recently. Liturgical deviations have three sources for clergy: the example of a mentor, usually early experience; seminary training (or lack thereof), and a pattern set early in ministry that became part of a comfort zone. I’ve found that priests resist continuing “education,” as it were. I once worked for a fine pastor who had a galling blind spot: the post-baptismal anointing for infants was done with Oil of Catechumens. Chrism, he reported to me, is to be saved for Confirmation. Is this an abuse? Is V2 or the permissive culture of experimentation to blame? Or maybe clericalism?

        I once witnessed an elderly priest get two Sacramentary pages stuck and he skipped over the second half of the EP. Sometimes an error is just an error. I suspect the internet reveals a lot of errors, misunderstandings, and alas, clericalism. I really think poor preaching and poor music cause more serious damage, but who wants to tell that to the leadership?

    2. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      I agree. It is both.
      The challenge in all this is that it’s not just a matter of everyone following the rules of the 1970s Missal. It takes a fair bit of education and formation to help priests and lay ministers understand what adaptations fit the genius of the 1970 Missal and which ones do not. It’s not an exact science.

  4. Thomas Basile Avatar
    Thomas Basile

    Father Ruff , as a devotee of the Vetus Ordo I do read your work and while I disagree with your negative view of the Tridentine Mass ,I was comforted by your pod cast. You clearly love the liturgy and believe in the spiritual power of the sacraments . Your being a priest and a religious in the 21 st century also makes you an anachronism as well. I could hear in your comments that you felt the pain of those attached to the Vetus Ordo .I believe this sympathy comes from your priestly heart which is clearer from your soft spoken manner more so than your written work. As a respected liturgist who is a self proclaimed “softee” can I ask a kindness? Please advocate that the harshest provision of the Motu Proprio be modified
    to wit : excluding the Old Rite from parish Churches. This provision causes much hardship and renders traditional Catholics as second class citizens. We are all Catholics and should be able to worship in consecrated Church buildings. Your opinion has much weight, please assist your traditional brethren , who believe in the power of the sacraments , the great value of the priesthood and consecrated life.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      Dear Thomas,

      Thanks much for your kind words. This means a lot to me. And while I can live with contradictions and exceptions, I don’t think I’ll advocate for modification of TC. I think Pope Francis’s restrictions – e.g., no 1962 Mass in parishes – are difficult, but are part of his plan to bring all Roman-rite Catholics back to the 1970 Missal, which I support.


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